Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction and 263-year prison sentence of a former Enid man and Oklahoma City Police Department officer convicted of rape and other sexual assaults Thursday morning. The court also denied a request for an evidentiary hearing in the case.
Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, 32, has maintained his innocence. He's cited a lack of evidence, a "circus atmosphere" during his 2015 trial and his defense attorney's failure to show alternate ways DNA was found on his pants.
Holtzclaw's father, Eric, and sister, Jenny, both said Thursday they were "devastated" by the decision but not surprised. They said an appeal now will be sought in federal court.
'He will never give up'
Prosecutors accused Holtzclaw of targeting black women while on duty in 2013 and 2014. He was convicted on 18 of 36 charges involving 12 women and a teenage girl.
"They basically brushed aside the contentions we made as being unfounded, when in fact they were very relevant points to the case," Eric said of the Court of Criminal Appeals.
"We're going to start post-conviction here and bring it to the federal level. We want to take it out of Oklahoma as soon as possible," Jenny said. "I will keep on fighting until Daniel is free. I’m so passionate about this case — not just because Daniel is my brother, but because of the lack of evidence in this case."
Jenny said the family spoke with Daniel on Thursday and shared the court's decision with him.
"We’re going to keep fighting until Daniel is free. He’s innocent of all charges," Jenny said. "He is stronger than ever, and he won’t ever give up. That’s what he wanted everyone to know — he will never give up."
Michelle Malkin, a journalist, columnist and No. 1 New York Times best-selling author, has taken up Holtzclaw's cause. She has featured his plight in “Michelle Malkin Investigates," a series aired on CRTV, a subscription-based conservative media outlet.
Special screenings of the show were held in Enid, with Malkin and other experts in the DNA field speaking to attendees about the misleading evidence presented at trial.
Malkin gave an interview with Tulsa radio host Pat Campbell Thursday morning, shortly after the appeals court issued its ruling.
"Obviously, I'm devastated," Malkin said. "I remain unshakable in my faith that Daniel is innocent of each and every allegation against him."
Malkin vowed to continue digging into the "systemic problem in the Oklahoma justice system."
Judge: Chanting was 'irrelevant'
In the opinion by Vice Presiding Judge Dana Kuehn, she noted the third proposition claimed Holtzclaw was denied a fair trail due to a "circus atmosphere" but never requested a change of venue or courtroom.
"Sixty-six times throughout the trial, the trial court admonished jurors not to talk about the case or let anyone talk to them about it; to tell the bailiff if anyone approached them about the case; not to watch or read any news reports; and generally that all jurors' information about the case should come from the courtroom," according to the opinion.
The record shows that throughout the morning of the 10th day of trial people in the courtroom could clearly hear protesters outside the courthouse chanting, "'Give him life' and other things," according to the opinion. "Defense counsel asked that the protestors be removed, but the trial court noted the protestors had a permit. Appellant (Holtzclaw) admits the trial court admonished jurors to disregard the chanting as irrelevant to the courtroom proceedings. He argues on appeal that the admonishment was 'likely ineffective.' This is just speculation, and the record does not support it."
The opinion addresses other incidents during the trial, but noted, " ... he makes no effort to show how his trial was rendered unfair by these incidents. He also fails to ask this Court to reverse his convictions, or for a new trial, based on his claim that his trial was unfair."
The denial of the third proposition concludes, "The fact that Jurors acquitted Appellant of half the charges against him supports our conclusion that they were not improperly affected by events outside the courtroom."
A footnote in the 57-page opinion addresses a two-day meeting held after Holtzclaw's trial concerning DNA evidence in cases handled by the OCPD's crime lab.
"After Appellant's trial had concluded and while this appeal was pending before this Court, we remanded this case for hearings tangentially connected with the DNA claims raised in this proposition. Neither those hearings, the issues they discussed, nor the contemporaneous and subsequent documents filed with this Court concerning them are relevant to the issues raised in either this appeal or Appellant's Rule 3.11(B) Application. We neither discuss nor consider them in determining the appeal or the Application."
In a specially concurring opinion, Presiding Judge David B. Lewis addressed the appeal's claim of an excessive sentence.
"This case involves a sexual predator who happened to be employed, most unfortunately, as an Oklahoma City police officer. He used his position of authority to intimidate and prey on vulnerable victims," Lewis wrote. "The facts and circumstances of this case, including his position of authority, the number of victims, and the callous nature of the offenses, dictate that consecutive sentences in his case are entirely appropriate. His arguments attacking the convictions are likewise unavailing."
Lewis also stated in his opinion that Holtzclaw never requested a separate trial for any of the 13 victims making claims against him.
"Joinder was proper and he was not prejudiced by the joinder or failure to request severance of the charges," Lewis wrote.
"These offenses show a pattern of sexual predation committed in similar ways, with similar intents, under similar circumstances. Joinder of these offenses was proper because the counts arose from the same type of offense occurring within a few months, in approximately the same area of the city, and the proof of each transaction overlapped as to show a common scheme or plan."
A post on the Free Daniel Holtzclaw Facebook page, maintained by family and supporters, shortly after the decision was issued read: "APPEAL: DENIED. WE WILL CONTINUE FIGHTING!!!!!!!!! #FreeDanielHoltzclaw."